Is honesty a policy that pays off? 3

May 19, 2006

That university teaching staff are poorly paid is widely recognised. In comparison with, say, teachers or medical staff of comparable skill, and even firefighters or train drivers, salaries are low.

Despite this, there is only partial sympathy from fee-paying students whose careers are damaged by strikes and uncertainty.

Well-managed businesses have spent decades trying to cut central administrative costs, focusing expenditure on the front line. In contrast, anecdotal comment by colleagues suggests that many university central charges have risen 10 per cent or more a year since 1997.

Universities seem to be pouring increasing amounts of resources into fresh layers of central management. This has not been completely their fault. It is in compliance with the endless downward drizzle of central government requirements and targets.

There is plenty of money in the university system, but it needs to be spent in departments, not at the centre.

Before the Association of University Teachers irretrievably sacrifices student goodwill, it should shift its target to central administration.

Mark exams but urge staff to break all contact with administration, refuse to answer e-mails, fill in forms or serve on committees not directly connected with departmental teaching and research. A summer without form-filling will soon show exactly how useless it all is.

Euan Nisbet

Royal Holloway, University of London

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